Friday, 21 February 2014

Stories, friends and random meetings

Where do I start?

I suppose the first thing I'd like to talk about is stories. Stories and friends. This sounds a bit strange, but one of the biggest parts of my life over the past few months has been stories. More specifically, stories on the internet that have led to me making some of the best friends I've known without meeting them in person. Through my love of the Professor Layton games, and the spinoff game for iOS: Layton Brothers Mystery Room, I have discovered a role-play on Twitter of the latter's protagonist, Alfendi Layton. The person behind this account, who shall remain nameless for reasons of privacy, created a story unlike any other role play I have ever seen, featuring not only the characters from the game, but also a host of original characters, each with their own fascinating backgrounds and personalities. The story is currently on its eighth and penultimate chapter, a most intriguing case (Alfendi, for those who have not played the game, is a detective) set in a virtual world filled with danger and excitement. By interacting with the characters I have met two other readers who are just as fascinated as I am by Professor Layton and his world, and with whom I have become very close. Thank you, you guys are awesome. I hope to one day meet you in person.

Talking about this role play leads me on to another topic: the creator's stories on Wattpad. He's written some amazing stories, both fanfiction and original works. They have made me laugh, made me cry, made me want to scream. If he's not a published author within the next ten years, I'll eat my hat. Thanks to him I have been inspired to continue with my own stories, which you can also find on Wattpad: But enough self promotion, it's time to talk about my life outside of the internet. In October I joined a local choir. I had been looking for some social activities over the summer to break the monotony of my dissertation. Unfortunately most of the activities I found weren't running during the summer, so I only managed to join the choir after I had submitted the dissertation. Ironic, huh? Anyway, I joined the choir and now enjoy singing with them every Thursday evening. We had a concert in December and now we have a whole new programme in preparation for our summer concert in July. It includes a medley from The Phantom of the Opera, the Beatles hit All You Need Is Love, the song I Believe I Can Fly, made famous by the film Space Jam, and many others. A few weeks ago I met a girl wearing a deerstalker, and my immediate reaction was "you have an ear hat!" (That's a reference to the BBC show Sherlock, in case anyone didn't know, I'm a HUGE fan. HUGE. I could talk for hours about how much I love it. But I won't.)  We spent ages chatting about it, and then she realised that I had served her one day during my time at Waterstones over Christmas. I'll talk about that in another post. As if meeting her wasn't enough to make me fangirl, I also met a boy called Benedict! I nearly squealed when he introduced himself, then I said to him "you must get references all the time." He looked at me like I had three heads, but then I calmed down and he turned out to be really nice. So there you go! Strange how these things happen.

Lastly, I'd like to spend a bit of time talking about Twitter. I tried to explain this to my mum yesterday after hearing reports of Elise Christie, the Olympic speed skater, being threatened over social media. I think social media, particularly Twitter, receives a lot of negative attention from the press because of the amount of people who are bullied, threatened and even pushed into committing suicide. Of course this is a harrowing issue, but people often forget that there is a positive side to social media, namely fandoms. Briefly explained, a fandom is a large group of people who share an interest or obsession in a particular book, series of books, film or TV show. From what I've experienced, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people, especially teenagers, who struggle to relate to their friends at school, and find themselves under a lot of pressure to get good grades, and this leads to depression, anxiety and all sorts of other problems. I'll admit that I'm far from an expert and I don't wish to offend anyone, but I've seen that so many people have found comfort and real friends through fandoms on Twitter. Perhaps if the media were to focus more on this, and less on the bullying, parents would have a better understanding of why teenagers spend so much time using social networking sites. Of course I understand that there are malicious people on the internet: sexual predators, trolls and so on, and it is important to raise awareness of them and prevent their actions, but it is also necessary to understand how much support young people receive just from people their own age who enjoy the same things as they do. I consider myself a very positive person, and I mostly enjoyed school when I was there, so I often find it difficult to relate to my followers on Twitter who say they hate it or are depressed, however I will always do my best to support my friends and advise them should they ever need it.

Ok, this accidentally turned into a bit of an essay and it got a bit political without me meaning it to, so I'll sign off here before I start waffling.

Megan xxx

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Everything is changing!

Hi everyone! I've been really quiet this summer. There's no real reason for this, other than the fact that my summer has been the complete opposite of exciting. I spent it pretty much exclusively either working on my dissertation or avoiding it. I am such a good student. Now that that's out of the way, today seemed like a good day to update my blog, for a number of reasons. 5 years ago today, I became a student at the University of Birmingham, and now I find myself on the verge of completing my second degree from there. (She this point I'm not even sure if I'm going to pass the Master's, but that's another story)

It seems like only yesterday when I moved into Maple Bank and met the most amazing flatmates I could ever have wished for: Beth, Anna, Kiddy and Hemali. Not to mention the rest of my Maple friends who I also became very close with: Sophie, Charlotte and James. Of course I made lots of other friends while at uni, but there are too many to name and I wouldn't want to leave anyone out. Anyway, I decided to write this post today because it is the anniversary of a day when lots of changes started to happen in my life, and it has now reached the point where the same thing is happening again. First of all, my mum has got a new job. This might not sound like it affects me directly, and in a way it doesn't, but nevertheless it is a big change. Although my mum's been a school governor for the past I-don't-even-know-how-many years, she hasn't had a paid job since before I was born. So until I get a job myself, I'll be running the house! That'll be fun...!

The next big change that's happened is my brother moving to university. This actually happened last year, but due to complications with his course, he left after two weeks and took a gap year, so now he's gone for real. He's gone to Exeter to study business management. The house is really quiet without him. I'd be lying if I said he didn't annoy me, but I do miss him. I'm super jealous of his accommodation! From what I've seen/heard, it seems way nicer than what I had in first year! Also weirdly, he's ended up on the top floor at the end of the corridor, just like I did in both first and second year. Coincidence or what?

As if all that wasn't enough, I'm also starting to learn to drive. Yes, I know I'm a bit late to the party, but uni and epilepsy have got in the way slightly. I had of course meant to learn last summer, but then I decided to do the Master's, so driving seemed pointless at that time. By a sheer stroke of luck, my dad found me a car a couple of months ago that's the same age as my brother's, but that had done less than half the mileage. I'm now the proud owner of an adorable silver Toyota Yaris. It'll be a while before I can actually drive it though, as I had to wait until I finished my dissertation before I could even start lessons, and I'll be starting off using the instructor's car until he's confident that I can drive it without him using the dual controls. My brother, being the joker that he is, threatened to puncture my tyres if I didn't get on with the diss. Siblings are the best! NOT. Thankfully it was an empty threat and I've now had my first driving lesson. It went really well and I'm looking forward to the next one.

In summary, my life is changing rapidly, in fact life is changing rapidly for my whole family. But I'm looking forward to winter. I love summer too, but there's just something about cosy jumpers, big warm meals and kicking the leaves around :) Plus the best TV shows are on in winter. Strictly Come Dancing starts next week, the Great British Bake Off is in full swing and all the best dramas are coming back/new ones are starting. I REALLY hope Sherlock comes back soon, the withdrawal symptoms are just ridiculous!

That's all for now.

Megan xxx

Saturday, 23 March 2013

March is a strange month.

The end of term is finally here, and I'm not really sure how I feel about it. The past few weeks have been incredibly stressful. The end of term is always weird, because I often find myself feeling relieved that it's over, but at the same time terrified at the amount of work I will have over the holidays. March is such a strange month, after the depressingness of January, being right after Christmas and just dragging on and on. Then February disappears in the blink of an eye, being so short. March is that awkward month between winter and spring where you can't really predict the weather. I often notice that no matter what the weather is like on the last day of February, the 1st of March is always sunny. This has always baffled me, cos the weather is normally a gradual thing, but then March hits and suddenly BAM sun. However, this year the last couple of days of February were actually sunny, and the 1st of March was grey and cloudy. I hated that, because the arrival of the sun finally meant that I didn't have to wear a million layers every time I left the house, and then two days later the clouds came back. Even worse than this, it snowed yesterday! What the heck, it's supposed to be spring! Stupid British weather! Sometimes I think the seasons just don't exist any more.

Between all the essays and lectures, a lot of crazy things have happened this month. I suppose I should start with the craziest of them all:

Guild Elections.

This was madness. My housemate Vicki decided to run for VP Sport, which meant that for weeks on end the house was full of cardboard and moving around in the living room was damn near impossible. I wasn't even able to help out with the sign painting, because I don't have any old clothes that I don't mind getting messy. So I took to keeping to my room as much as possible while this was happening. Once the campaigning actually started, the madness increased to an even more ridiculous level. Jen, another one of my housemates, was managing Vicki's campaign, and she quickly became very short tempered. So much so that we developed a catchphrase: "poke the bear." This basically meant that she would quite easily bite your head off if you annoyed her when she was in a bad mood. This is the second time I've been involved in a Guild election campaign; the first time was last year when I helped my friend Jess out with her campaign to become VP Welfare, although not quite as intensively, as I didn't live with her. You can check out her blog post about the elections here: The whole two weeks of campaigning and voting were full of ups and downs. I had a lot of fun putting signs up, handing out lollies and wearing a ridiculous amount of purple. I also got to know lots of people. People who were also on Vicki's campaign team, other people running for VP Sport, and friends of my housemates who were running for other positions. Unfortunately, there was quite a lot of vandalism. Some bright spark thought it would be funny to paint erm...certain parts of male anatomy....over people's signs with the most unpleasant slogan "VOTE BONER". Thankfully we were able to take it in our stride and have a laugh about it. In the end it was all worth it; Vicki ended up winning, in the most tense election I have ever seen. I went to watch the results in Beorma Bar in the Guild, and I had never been so nervous in my life! My heart was in my mouth! I'm really happy for Vicki, and I hope she makes a real difference to sport at the uni next year.

Languages Ball

On the 7th of March, the languages departments held a masquerade ball. I was really excited about this, as I hadn't been to a masquerade ball since my freshers ball in 2008. I bought a silver sequinned Venetian style mask, and I wore a turquoise dress which I had previously worn to last year's Gradball. Here is a photo of me at the ball.

I had a lot of fun at the ball, but at the same time it wasn't as much fun as I expected. The food was lovely and the venue was gorgeous - we went to the Macdonald Burlington Hotel in the centre of Birmingham. Unfortunately not very many of my friends in final year went, so I didn't know that many people. I did get to know other people of course, but it wasn't the same as catching up with old friends. Afterwards, some of us went to Vodbull at Risa. I used to love Vodbull when it was at Oceana, even though it was always really hot and cramped, but ever since it moved I haven't enjoyed it as much. What am I saying, I haven't even been clubbing properly in ages! Anyway, I lost the people I was with almost straight away, so I spent most of the night either wandering around trying to find people, or following people around so I wouldn't get lost again. In the end I left on my own. I hate doing that, getting a taxi on my own always unnerves me, even if I know the area. Perhaps I have come to the horrible realisation that I'm getting old and clubbing really isn't my thing anymore. I strongly believe that how much you enjoy something depends largely on who you're with, so maybe if I were to go clubbing with people I actually know well, I might enjoy myself more.


The following week, I had my last official concert with the UoB Windband. We played some really enjoyable pieces and it went really well. I was kind of sad though, windband has been a big part of my life for the past 4 years, and I will miss playing with them. Luckily, the concert wasn't my last ever performance with them, as I've decided to take part in the Summer Festival of Music, which is a week of performances by various music ensembles at the beginning of June. So there's no need to be too sad just yet. I would really like to find some kind of music thing to do after I graduate, but perhaps not on quite an intensive level, as it would be a shame just to stop playing the clarinet after so many years of being in orchestras and windbands. This leads me on quite nicely to the concert I went to the next day. The Birmingham Medic Orchestra put on a Last Night of the Proms style concert. I can't believe they didn't call it "Last Night of the Brums!" Missed opportunity there guys, missed opportunity. As a long time musician, I always find it weird watching concerts as opposed to playing in them. I kept trying to imagine the music on a page and listen out for my instrument. It was really fun though, there was Union Jack bunting everywhere, and they played music from Carmen, The Entertainer, Peer Gynt (including In The Hall of the Mountain King, which most people will probably know better as the music from the Alton Towers adverts), as well as all the Proms classics: Sailor's Hornpipe, Land of Hope and Glory, Rule Britannia and of course, the national anthem. All the seats had little flags on them, but I was dedicated, I took my own! I had a Union Jack left over from when my mum and I went to see the Olympic Torch Relay in Oxford. My arms sure did ache after all the waving! The concert was conducted by the same guy who has led the windband for the past 5 terms. Ed, you are a legend and I will miss you and your random music analogies. I caught up with Ed after the concert, and complimented him on his amazing Union Jack waistcoat. I wasn't at all surprised that he had this, as I know what he's like. He actually told me that he bought it specifically for that concert, which did surprise me as I thought he already had it. I loved both concerts, and I'm looking forward to playing in the Summer Festival.


My most recent source of stress has been a German translation project. I had to translate a 2000 word text and write a 2000 word commentary on my translation. I thought that the translation part would be relatively easy, but to my despair a lot of the German I know seems to have seeped out of my brain from lack of use. I found myself turning to the dictionary every two minutes or so. Sometimes I came across words that I knew but couldn't work out based on the context, but even worse than this was when I found words that I had never seen before and couldn't find in any form of dictionary, whether online or hard copy. Thank goodness for teachers on Facebook! I posted a status about this, and one of my old language teachers commented and managed to help me work out one of the words I was stuck on. She saved my life! I finally managed to submit the project on Thursday at the eleventh hour. I mean this literally, the essay was due at 12:00 and I sent it in at about 11:30. I need to stop doing this to myself! I blame the internet and video games. I kept getting distracted by Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and just about anything else. I've recently become addicted to the Professor Layton games. One of my favourite things to do is solve puzzles - crosswords, sudokus, word searches, things like that. I also love anything that involves adventure and mystery: things like Sherlock Holmes, Indiana Jones, National Treasure, etc. So how could I resist a game series which combines puzzles with adventure and mystery? The answer to that is, I couldn't. I've completed 4 out of the 5 games at least twice, and I've seen the movie. That's right, a movie based on a video game series. Those crazy Japanese think of everything! I highly recommend the Layton games to anyone who likes puzzles, but perhaps don't play them if you have a lot of work to do. It is all too easy to waste several hours playing Layton instead of doing what you're supposed to be doing. Now watch me fail to take my own advice, ha ha ha. But seriously, I may have to ask my mum to hide my 3DS over Easter so I don't get distracted from the three essays I have to do. Despite the mountain of work, I am looking forward to Easter. I'm looking forward to going home and seeing my family, as well as having a change of scene. Plus it's a lot easier to work over Easter than over Christmas. Wish me luck!

Until next time,

Megan xxx

Monday, 11 February 2013

I hate Sundays.

Hi again! It's been a couple of weeks, and not much has happened but I do have one thing that I want to talk about. Sundays. I know everyone always moans about how much they hate Mondays, but Sundays are honestly the worst day of the week. They drag by annoyingly slowly. Admittedly, Sundays in the UK aren't nearly as horrifically boring as Sundays in Europe, where there is literally nothing to do because EVERYTHING is closed. Anyway, I always find myself being unbelievably lazy on Sundays, even if I fully intend to get loads of work done. I don't know what it is about Sundays, I just never have any motivation. 

The other horrible thing about Sundays is public transport. For some reason, engineering works on the railways always happen on Sundays. Inconvenient much? I came home from university yesterday and it was so stressful. I got to my local train station to find that trains to Birmingham were leaving from the opposite platform. Unhelpful considering the fact that I had to lug my suitcase around! The other annoying thing was actually my fault; I had to buy another ticket because I forgot to bring my booking reference with me. What a waste of 20 quid. 

I realise I sound like a grumpy old lady, moaning about everything. Haha. Some good things that happened over the past couple of weeks are:

Anton and Erin go to Hollywood 

On the 2nd of February, my mum came up to Birmingham and we went to see Anton and Erin from Strictly Come Dancing's show. The tickets were a birthday present from my dad :) They danced to songs from classic Hollywood shows, and I really enjoyed it. Erin wore loads of really pretty dresses. She always gives me major dress envy! I wish I had the figure to wear the kind of dresses that the ladies wear on Strictly. My favourite bits were when Anton and Erin did little comedy interludes in between the dances. I wasn't expecting this at all, I just thought it would be them doing a selection of dances. I did not know they could be so funny! Anton kept making jokes about his terrible history of partners on Strictly, which was great. At one point he did a duet of Me and My Shadow with Lance Ellington, one of the singers from the Strictly Come Dancing band. It was brilliant, so much better than the cringey version that he did with Bruce Forsyth a couple of years ago. 

Fun times with the UMS

On Saturday just gone, the music society at my uni ran a concert for the UN World Food Programme. This was really enjoyable. As someone who plays in the university windband, it was weird sitting on the other side of the stage! I nearly cried at the Chamber Choir's rendition of "The Rose". Afterwards I went to a pub quiz run by the UMS. My team came second! The announcement of the results was the most tense moment ever, we were so sure we were going to win, but we missed out on the top spot by one point. One point! We did win some cool consolation prizes though, including a big bag of Haribo and some chocolates. 

Well, that's about it from me, chat again soon, if I haven't died from essay overload.

Megan xxx

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

I'm back! Miss me?

Ok, I'm starting off with an apology. I am literally the worst blogger in the world! The last time I posted I was in Germany. That feels like a lifetime ago. So anyway, a very quick update on my life since on earth am I going to do this concisely?
- In March 2011, there was a fire in my house! One of the motion sensing security lights on the outside of our house shorted out, and the spark caused the entire garage and our extension to set on fire. I was in Germany at the time, but I was properly freaked out! I had to go home for a weekend so I could sort through my stuff - loads of things got smoke damaged so we had to send it away to be cleaned, but there's not much point in having stuff cleaned if you don't want it in the first place! So that happened, and my family had to move into a rented house while our house was being rebuilt; my mum had been wanting a new kitchen for ages, so this seemed like the perfect time to do it. When we finally moved back in, we were living in half a house for quite a while. Literally the only liveable room downstairs was the living room (ironic) and there were no carpets in most of the rest of the house. But it eventually got sorted and we now have a lovely new kitchen and TV room.

- I graduated from university! Final year was both the most stressful and the most fun year ever, I had a ton of work and lived in a slum of a house, but I also had lots of good times with my friends. Here is a picture of me in my graduation robes.      

- I must be mad, but after all that final year malarkey, I decided I would go back to the same university and do a Masters degree! So I'm back in Birmingham now, studying for a Masters in Translation. I miss all my undergrad friends, but I have made lots of new ones and my house is a lot nicer, bar a few issues, but even with these issues, this house is a palace compared to where I lived last year. Everyone on the MA course is really friendly, apart from one person, who I think deserves his own paragraph, but there's no easy way to rant about him without getting in trouble for slanderous comments or something, so I'll just say that he's annoying and leave it at that. People who know me will know who I'm talking about.

- Essays. As expected, life as a Masters student is so much more intense than life as a lowly undergraduate. However, the essays weren't as bad as I thought they were going to be. I was genuinely expecting ten THOUSAND word essays every couple of months, but actually Masters essays are no longer than anything I did during the undergrad, with the exception of the dissertation. However, this does not mean they are any easier. At the end of last term I was set a 3000 word essay, and I stupidly left the whole thing to the last two weeks of term. Normally, I struggle to even reach a word limit, but this time I had so much to say that I went over by a thousand words! I was so panicked trying to finish it in the last week of term that I didn't even get to celebrate my birthday at uni! :( The essay was meant to be submitted by 12 noon on the 6th of December, and I submitted it at 9am on the 7th. NEVER AGAIN. I got the mark back recently, and I got a 58. In undergrad terms, that's 2 marks off a 2:1. Considering the fact that I only managed to cut it down to 3600 words and it was late, that's not as spectacularly bad as I thought. I'm determined to do better for this term's essays, of which I have three, but I also have the D-word to think about. I have to submit my proposal by March, which is terrifying because I have no idea what I want to write about!

- Birthday! Like I said, I didn't get to celebrate my birthday at uni, but I did have an awesome celebration with my family. I went to see The War of the Worlds at the O2 Arena in London! For those of you who don't know, The War of the Worlds is a novel by HG Wells about Earth being invaded by Martians. In the 70s, a man called Jeff Wayne turned this novel into a musical story, which he recorded onto an album. Then a stage show was made of the album, and recently a new stage show has been made to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Jeff Wayne album. The show toured the UK in December, and by sheer chance, the only date when it was showing at the O2 was on my birthday! So my dad booked the tickets, and it was the most epic thing I have ever seen in my life! I first discovered WOTW when one of the songs/pieces/chapters (?) came up on my dad's iPod in the car, and I asked him what on earth it was. He explained it, and gave me the money to download the album from iTunes. I listened to it about a week before I saw the show, and I was totally hooked. The stage show was so clever!  There was action going on on the stage, and at the same time there were animations on a screen behind the stage, like a film, except the sound was provided by a string orchestra and a band. At one point a massive alien machine appeared on the stage, and I must have been distracted because I didn't even notice it coming down from the rafters, so when I saw it I jumped out of my skin! They also had a holographic projection of Liam Neeson as the narrator. It was so futuristic! The Martians were horrific, I'm surprised I didn't have nightmares about them! I also got lots of lovely presents - clothes, DVDs, jewellery, the usual kind of thing.

- Christmas! The Christmas holidays were a bit of a mishmash if I'm honest, as most of it was spent slaving over essays. I didn't get to see any friends while I was at home, but I did spend lots of time with my family. On Christmas Day my granny and my auntie came to our house for Christmas dinner. It was all a very civilised affair, we had roast turkey and pulled crackers and drank champagne, and my brother and I got lots of awesome presents. Among my favourites were the Strictly Come Dancing 2013 annual, a very cosy silvery grey jumper from my brother, and a remote control gyro helicopter thing. After the relatively chilled Christmas Day, Boxing Day was a whole other kettle of fish. We went to see my other auntie (on my mum's side) and my cousins. The difference between them and my granny and auntie on my dad's side is that they never fail to make me laugh. That doesn't mean I love my granny and auntie on my dad's side any less, just that the time I spend with them is different. At my auntie's house, we had a yummy dinner/late lunch of roast pork, then we played board games and my uncle teased me with his deliberate bad French, saying things like "enchant√©" (enchanted/pleased to meet you) "tous les arbres" (all the trees) and "dans ma bouche" (in my mouth). All nonsense really! One of my favourite moments was when we were playing a game called Who's in the Bag, where we had to play in teams, and take it in turns to pick cards out of a bag and describe a person on the card to our team. At one point my auntie picked "Long John Silver", did a very convincing impression of a pirate saying "Arrrr Jim lad!" and my cousin guessed "Captain Birdseye"! I collapsed into giggles!    

- My auntie's 50th. Two days after Boxing Day, we went to Raymond Blanc's restaurant, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons. I still don't know how we managed to keep this quiet from my auntie when we were at her house two days previously! Both our families were there, as well as several close friends of my auntie and uncle. Now I'm not particularly adventurous when it comes to food, so I was pretty apprehensive about this uber posh restaurant with its uber posh food. To my pleasant surprise, I actually really liked most of the food! I'm not going to brag too much about it, because that will make me sound like a spoilt little Daddy's girl, which I most certainly am not. I'll just say that we had a 5 course meal and it was all delicious.

- I think we're just about up to date, so now I will finally tell you what's been happening over the last month. I'll start with what I like to call a "Megan fail story" - this is something that is so much of an epic fail that it could only really happen to me. On Thursday after my 2 hour lecture, I went to Tesco and foolishly dropped my debit card when I took it out of the paying machine, so both the shop assistant and the security guard had to help me find it. As embarrassing as that was, it wasn't the "Megan fail" that this story is actually about. I got back to my house and discovered that I had lost my keys! I had to bang on the door and get my housemate to let me in! Once I got in, I frantically searched the kitchen for my keys, and I was panicking because my room was also locked, so I thought I would have to sleep on the sofa in my clothes! About 10 minutes later, I decided to walk back to Tesco to see if I had dropped my keys in the kerfuffle with the card. Oooh, lots of alliteration there :D Unfortunately Tesco didn't have them, so then I stupidly decided to trek all the way back to uni (at this point it was about 7pm and it was dark and snowy and cold), but all the buildings were locked. So I walked all the way back to my house, stopping at Tesco on the way for one last tentative check, got let in by another housemate, then I did what anyone would do in a panic situation; phoned my mum. She told me to ring the letting agency, which I did, but they didn't pick up. I looked them up on the internet and found an emergency number, rang it only to be told to ring the local office again. Catch-22 much! Not helpful. This time they did pick up, I told them about the keys and that I had medication in my room that I absolutely had to take (I have epilepsy). They asked me my name and as soon as I told them, they said that someone had found a set of keys with Megan on them! I never thought my love of personalised things would come in handy! It's also a good thing that this agency gives all its tenants a keyring with their logo on, for such situations as this. The man on the phone said that someone near the Edgbaston Cricket Ground had found my keys, so the very nice man drove out to get them and dropped them off at my house! I have never been more grateful to anyone. Not much else of note has happened, apart from crazy amounts of snow and boring lectures, although I did meet a guy who looks exactly like Neville Longbottom aka Matthew Lewis, circa Deathly Hallows as opposed to cute pudgy Neville from the earlier films. I'm not gonna lie, I fangirled. I guess I'll leave it there for now, more news on my oh so exciting life soon!

Megan xxx                                                                                              

Saturday, 8 October 2011

I suck at blogging....

Was it really April since I last posted? Guess I must have been having so much fun in Germany that I forgot to blog! Either that or I'm just a lazy so and so. I'm now back in Birmingham, and I can't possibly write everything that happened in Germany since April in one post, so I'll just give a short summary. In April about 15 of the Erasmus students went to Austria. The days leading up to this trip left me in a bit of a quandary (quandary? quandry? I never know how to spell that word.) because we would be spending 6 hours on trains and everyone else would be drinking copious amounts. As I knew that I would be driven completely insane very quickly if I stayed sober while everyone else was getting extremely besoffen (drunk in German), I thought I would at least need some alcohol for the journey so that I could be tipsy enough to not be driven mad, but sober enough so that I don't get completely ruined myself. Unfortunately I only really like alcopops i.e. WKD and VK, and I don't like beer. Pretty tragic that, since I was in Germany! So a couple of days before the trip I went to the local Kaufland (basically German equivalent of Carrefour - sells just about anything) which has a basement full of booze, to try and find some kind of drink that I would like. I ended up buying a bottle of Sex on the Beach and a weird grapefruit flavoured alcopop. As Balazs would say, "Das ist ein grosser Fortschritt!" - meaning that's a big step forward. Anyway, the next day we headed for Austria. 6 hours, 3 trains, a random Bavarian woman who couldn't understand a word we were saying, and vise versa, an amazing afternoon in Salzburg and a village in the middle of nowhere. As my mum sometimes reads this blog, I won't mention the name of the village here. The Erlangeners will know what I'm talking about though!

On to the lectures. Term started in May, and I chose to study two linguistics modules, a top level oral class (what was I thinking??) a module on 19th century American literature, and something called Interkulturelle Kommunikation. All very interesting. Actually that's a big fat lie, I found the linguistics stuff very boring, even though I'm usually very interested in linguistics. Meh, you can't have everything.

The next few months were peppered with another outing - this time a cheeky weekend in Munich - various nights out in bars and pizza places, and of course the ultimate event of the summer - the Bergkirchweih, or just the Berg as everyone calls it. This is a MASSIVE beer festival that runs for two weeks every year in May or June, up in the higher part of the city, hence the name Berg (German for mountain). This year it was in June. I was quite apprehensive about going to this, because as I said, I don't like beer. I thought I would be surrounded by drunkards and feel rather awkward. As it happened, I absolutely loved it! The first day of it was completely insane: Kim's boyfriend Ben was visiting, as was my friend Jenny's boyfriend Tom, so the two couples plus me and Becca went to the Berg. It was so busy! It wasn't all about the beer though, there were all sorts of fairground type games and rides, and loads of food stands selling everything from decorated gingerbread, candyfloss, pretzels, French crepes and a weird Hungarian bread thing called Langos, which Becca and Kim got totally hooked on! I still don't really understand what it is. Ben got ridiculously drunk, but Tom left early, having drunk too much. Ben was weirdly proud that he had out-drunk an American! I went to the Berg about 4 times and loved it every time.

After the Berg, things went by pretty slowly; I didn't do much of consequence apart from going to the Schlossgarten occasionally, but then the dreaded R word came around. Yes that's right: revision. Oh my DAYS. I had 4 exams and I was continually lamenting having to revise in July and August - the exams in Erlangen took place in the last week of July and the first week of August. Revising in May and June is bad enough, yeesh! I was determined not to fail or miss any exams after the debacle of the exams in Lyon. I ended up passing 3 out of 4, but I still don't know my mark for the 4th one because the stupid uni didn't release the Schein (results certificate) until the 16th of September, and me being my usual scatterbrained self, I forgot to ask for it after I left.

There was one thing which alleviated the stress of exams: at the end of July my family came to visit me. I had a lovely time with them; they stayed in a hotel round the corner from my flat and I showed them around Erlangen on the Sunday. Dad said it wasn't what he was expecting. I'm not quite sure what he was expecting, but my mum and brother seemed to like it. On the Monday we went to Bamberg. It's a gorgeous old town about an hour from Erlangen. As I had already been there twice before, I was able to tell my family about the things I had seen, although rather embarrassingly I couldn't remember much of the historical stuff that I'd been told when I went there with the orientation course. Mum and Dad really enjoyed the day in Bamberg, but my brother seemed to be bored by it. I should have seen that coming: he hates history and walking around old towns, whereas Mum, Dad and I love it. Because my brother didn't seem to like Bamberg, I felt a bit stupid for having suggested going there. I still had a great day though, and I finally managed to buy a Dirndl!!! You have no idea how exciting this is! A Dirndl is a traditional German dress, often in two colours, which is worn with a blouse and an apron. I'd been wanting one for ages, in fact I had wanted to buy one for the Berg, but they were so expensive in Erlangen that I couldn't get one. When I found one in Bamberg for €60, I could have squealed with joy! So now I have a gorgeous blue and black Dirndl. Unfortunately it's a bit tight so I want to lose weight so I can wear it! No idea when I'll actually wear it, but still. On the Tuesday I had lectures so Mum, Dad and Michael went to Nuremberg for the day. Funnily enough I met up with them in Starbucks between my two lectures because Michael had left something in the hotel, so they had to come back to Erlangen. Bonus!

This is turning into a very long post, so I'll just say that Mum came back to Erlangen in August to help me move out, and then the madness at home started. That's definitely for another post. Bis bald/au revoir!

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Two months in Erlangen already - OMG.

Wow, I really need to be better at this blogging business. Once again it is ages since I last posted. I have now been in Erlangen for 2 months. I can barely believe it! A week after I arrived, my orientation course began and I met some of the most awesome people ever, including a Hungarian guy called Balazs, who claims to be here to party and studying is just a thing on the side. His catchphrase in German is "Ich bin hier zu Party, studieren ist eine Nebenwirkung!" He also loves to use the word awesome. I say this word a lot but he says it in almost every sentence! Balazs created our Erasmus Erlangen group on Facebook - this earned him the nickname of "Capitano." Best nickname ever!

The orientation course was very helpful; the people who organised it helped us to set up bank accounts, register with the local authorities and organise health insurance. I can't believe how much more helpful the Germans are than the French! I had to do all of this sort of stuff myself in Lyon, it was not fun at all. Other things included in the orientation course were a tour of the university library and a session of "intercultural training." The latter was interesting, albeit a little strange. We did a quiz about Germany, and we were taught about various social norms such as how far away to stand from someone. Apparently the acceptable distance to stand from a German is 1.2 to 3.6 metres. At the intercultural training I met the second group of exchange students, who made our already awesome Erasmus group even more awesome!

The orientation course wasn't all bureaucracy and boring stuff, we also had 3 day trips. I will write about those in another post because otherwise this post will be insanely long and you will all get bored or else strain your eyes. So I will move on and talk about my intensive language course. I took a placement test which would determine the class I would go into. I found the test to be alright, it was a simple fill in the gaps type thing. The next day we were given our results and told some more about the course. When I found out that I had been placed at level C1, my heart sank because I thought this meant I was going to be in the bottom class. However I then realised that according to the European testing standards, A is the lowest level and C is the highest. You can see why I got confused! Once I realised I was in the top class, I was relieved but I also began to panic, because I was expecting to be in one of the middle classes. I was worried that I would end up feeling way out of my depth. When the course started the following day, I actually felt comfortable at the level I was at. After all I wasn't expecting this course to be child's play; I wanted a challenge. As a warm up exercise the teacher asked us to get into small groups and discuss how we felt about the course. I was in a group with Anna, a Polish girl I knew from the orientation, Balazs and two other people. Balazs instantly started complaining that there was too much homework. This frustrated me because he seemed to think that this course was going to be like primary school i.e. lots of talking and hardly any written work. He had said that he didn't care whether he made grammar mistakes or not. I wanted to scream at him! If you don't care about mistakes, then why on earth are you doing this language course?! Anyway, I digress. The language course lasted 4 weeks and it was seriously intense, but I got a lot out of it. I definitely think my German improved. Some of my friends in the lower classes didn't get nearly as much out of the course as I did. Even in the B2 class (the level right below mine) the exercises were incredibly basic; the sort of German one would have learned in second year. I felt sorry for the people in these classes, since they couldn't move to a higher class, so the course was pretty much a waste of time for them.

After the language course ended, there was an international evening - a party where everyone brought food from their own country. I made little triangular jam sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Very English picnic! I don't quite know why, but they were really popular! The variety of foods was really interesting: the Japanese people brought sushi, the Americans brought mac & cheese, one of the other Brits made bangers and mash - yummy! My friends Becca and Kim made pancakes. I had a great time, there was good music, good food and cool people. One of the funniest moments was when Balazs made an announcement over the microphone, saying "why is there no beer?" I laughed so much! Later on, the Japanese students did a traditional dance for us. It was fab! Unfortunately I had to leave this amazing party early because I was going home the next day and I still had to pack. Details about my time at home in another post. I promise I'll post sooner this time!